Australia to confiscate passports from convicted paedophiles in 'world-first'
Australia is to ban convicted paedophiles from travelling overseas in what the government says is a world-first move to protect vulnerable children in south-east Asia.
Australian paedophiles are notorious for taking cheap holidays to nearby south-east Asian and Pacific island countries to abuse children there.
Foreign minister Julie Bishop says she will cancel the passports of around 20,000 paedophiles on the national child sex offender register under new legislation introduced soon.
"There has been increasing community concern about sexual exploitation of vulnerable children and community concern is justified," she said.
Nearly 800 registered child sex offenders travelled overseas from Australia last year and about half went to south-east Asian destinations, she said.
"There will be new legislation which will make Australia a world leader in protecting vulnerable children in our region from child sex tourism," Ms Bishop said.
Justice minister Michael Keenan said no other country had such a travel ban and 2,500 new convicted paedophiles would be added to the sex offender register each year and lose their passports.
The register contains 3,200 serious offenders who will be banned from travel for life.
Less serious offenders drop off the register after several years of complying with reporting conditions and would become eligible to have their passports renewed.
Independent senator Derryn Hinch, who was molested as a child and jailed twice as a radio broadcaster for naming paedophiles in violation of court orders, took credit for the government initiative.
Mr Hinch said he had not known that convicted paedophiles were allowed to travel before he received a letter from Australian actress and children's rights campaigner Rachel Griffiths soon after he was elected to the Senate last year.
"If we can take a passport from a bankrupt, why can't we stop our paedophiles from traveling to Myanmar?" Mr Griffiths wrote.
Under Australian law, a bankrupt person cannot travel overseas without a trustee's permission.
Mr Hinch, who was involved in drafting the legislation, said temporary passports could be provided to paedophiles who need to travel for legitimate business or family reasons, and for those living overseas who need to return to Australia as their visas expire.
"This will not apply to a teenager who has been caught sexting to his 15-year-old girlfriend," said Mr Hinch.
"I know sometimes, I think unfairly, they go on registers, but we're trying to work it out so they don't."
Ms Bishop said governments in the Asia-Pacific region wanted Australia to do more to stem child sex tourists.
"There's most certainly deep concern among countries in our region about the number of registered child sex offenders in Australia engaging in the child sex tourism industry," she said.
Australia has attempted to crack down on child sex tourists by adding a new criminal offence punishable by up to 25 years in prison for citizens or residents who molest children overseas.